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Ohio State Basketball: 5 Must-Win Games for the Buckeyes in 2012-13

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2014

Ohio State Basketball: 5 Must-Win Games for the Buckeyes in 2012-13

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    If you are a card-carrying member of Buckeye Nation, you undoubtedly remember last season’s basketball manhandling of the Duke Blue Devils. The Schottenstein Center sounded as if it was hosting a rock concert, and ESPN was there to televise Ohio State’s message to the rest of the nation.

    The Buckeyes were going to be a force to be reckoned with, and they wanted everyone to know it.

    It’s games like last year’s Duke contest that help define a season—those marquee games that everyone is watching that can set the tone for what’s to come. While it wasn't smooth sailing all year, Ohio State reached the Final Four behind some of the momentum and confidence it seized with this early victory.

    The Buckeyes’ 2012-13 schedule is loaded with prominent games that will go a long way towards dictating the overall level of success. Here are five must-win games for Ohio State if Thad Matta hopes to match last year’s accolades.

Marquette

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    The lights are always a bit brighter on opening day—even in college basketball—when most season starters are blowout victories for power conference teams.

    However, game one promises to be different this season for the Buckeyes. First off, it is against a perennially talented Big East squad in Marquette instead of the typical cupcake.

    But that’s not what jumps off the page for this showdown.

    In fact, the opponent doesn't really matter when there’s a chance the president may show up, and the game is on the USS Yorktown.

    So why exactly is a basketball game being played outdoors and on a boat a must-win game for the scarlet and gray?

    Just take a glance at the schedule—it’s not easy. There will be losses down the road for the Bucks, so it is imperative that they grab a marquee win to start the season. With showdowns against squads such as Duke, Michigan, Michigan State, Kansas and Indiana on the horizon, 1-0 sounds a whole lot better than 0-1.

    Plus, who doesn't want to play well in front of the president?

At Duke

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    I covered the importance of last year’s Duke game in the opening slide. A victory in this year’s version, in front of the Cameron Crazies no less, would hold even more weight.

    A win over one of college basketball’s premier programs in their house would instill an untold amount of confidence in young players such as LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams, who did not really play a factor in the game last season.

    Since Ross, Williams, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson are so important in the team-wide effort to replace Jared Sullinger and William Buford, confidence will be crucial. If Ohio State can come away with a road win in front of these fans, suddenly key conference road games won’t look as daunting.

    Not to mention the fact that a win over Duke always means a bit more to the players, fans and selection committee come March.

At Minnesota

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    It’s probably safe to say you may not have expected this game to make the list when you opened this story.

    Nevertheless, if Ohio State has any hope of winning the Big Ten, arguably the best conference in the country, they cannot afford to drop road games against fringe contenders. While games at Northwestern, Illinois or Purdue could have certainly been inserted here as well, Minnesota fits the bill of a fringe contender perfectly.

    If everything goes right for the Gophers, they could be playing deeper into March than they are recently accustomed to and may even surprise a team or two in conference play. Ohio State has to make sure it isn’t one of those teams that gets surprised.

    I am working under the assumption that Minnesota will steal a game against someone in the group of Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, especially at The Barn.

    Thus, the Gophers will influence the Big Ten race even if they don’t win it.

    A road win here would ensure that this influence works in Ohio State’s favor.

Indiana

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    It’s no secret that the Hoosiers are the runaway favorites to win the Big Ten this upcoming season. Many see them as national championship contenders as well.

    While calling a matchup against the nation’s top team in Bloomington a must-win would be ridiculous, if the Buckeyes have any hope of winning the conference, they better take care of business against Tom Crean’s squad in Columbus.

    In fact, the showdown in the Schottenstein Center could very well decide the conference race in its entirety. There will be losses for each squad—after all the Big Ten is too tough to go undefeated—but the Buckeyes must win their home game here.

    Realistically, Ohio State has to win at least one of the games against Indiana if it wants to repeat as conference champions. It will be easier with Buckeye Nation behind them in Columbus.

Michigan

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    If you play any sport for the Buckeyes, this is always a must-win game. Doesn't matter if you are a star quarterback or the fifth person off the volleyball bench—it’s Ohio State versus Michigan.

    These two rivals are incredibly close on paper, so (just like the matchup with Indiana) Thad Matta’s squad has to hold serve at home.

    Last season, Michigan managed to win the game in Ann Arbor, but it was easier to swallow for Buckeye Nation after the scarlet and gray cruised to an easy victory at home (and eventually broke the deadlock in the conference tournament).

    Yes, the ultimate success or failure of the basketball season doesn't necessarily rest on the outcome of this game like it does for the football version, but it is a must-win nonetheless.

    Aaron Craft versus Trey Burke. Deshaun Thomas versus freshman phenomenon Mitch McGary. Scarlet and gray versus maize and blue.

    Get ready to lace them up—its the Buckeyes versus the Wolverines.

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